It seems borderline impossible nowadays to enjoy a tiny sliver of pop culture without bringing at least some third-party opinion into the experience. Hype – positive and negative – snowballs in the age of the internet, where deep-dives and think-pieces exist to segment, dissect and extract cultural value. To say we’re blind to it or that it has no sway – even a single headline in a Twitter feed – is a convenient self-deception, a hopeless hands-over-the-ears attempt to retain our idea of pure individuality. Despite our best efforts, hype finds us.
Which is all well and good, but I just wanted to enjoy Jonathan Franzen’s new novel in peace. Damn you all, Internets.
After being billed as the Next Great American Novelist by Time in 2010, Franzen’s standing turned online, it seemed. If the take-downs were to be believed, Franzen was no longer a great novelist but sexist and tone-deaf in his white maleness. At his base, he is an asshole. And, while we’re at it, is he really a good writer, anyway? All this before I even got to Page 1 of Purity.
And though I read far more critically this time around – Thank you, Gawker Media – I’ll just say: I think Purity is a pretty good book, just like Corrections and Freedom before it. I enjoyed reading it, found it worthy enough of my limited time and attention. And really, there isn’t much else to say beyond that.